Thursday, July 05, 2018

5 Things I Learned on my Yoga Journey

I'm sharing 5 life lessons I learned on the yoga mat. #yoga #health #wellbeing #5things


The very first time I stepped off the mat, I remember feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and defeated. I started the yoga class thinking I'd find peace and enlightenment, all the while growing stronger in my body, but I did not find what I'd come looking for. 

For over fifteen years, I've been practicing yoga, and although I would not call myself a pro by any stretch of the imagination, I have grown tremendously in my journey. I believe a lot can be learned from practicing yoga, not just the technique and the names of the poses, but life lessons as well. Today, I'm sharing five things I've learned on my journey that might be helpful for you in yours, both on and off the mat.

BREATHE: DON'T DISRUPT THE ENERGY FLOW
There is a line of energy flowing through your body. It runs from the soles of your feet all the way up and out the crown of your head. If you're new to the yoga world, this might sound a little too crunchy for you, but many western medicine practitioners are now recognizing this idea when they treat their patients, as it affects our physical wellness so much.

One of the biggest things that inhibits the flow of energy in your body is not properly breathing. If you stop breathing, you block the flow of energy. How does this relate to the physical body? If we aren't getting enough oxygen, it affects our brains, heart, lungs, and digestion. It disrupts our ability to think clearly and even changes the way our bodies tolerate pain.

When I started yoga, I'd find myself holding my breath, trying to force my way into different poses, but yoga isn't about checking off a box and contorting yourself into pretzel shapes. It's about breathing and finding freedom and movement within the poses. There are some days you won't be as flexible or as balanced. The point is to embrace where you are today and breathe so you can let that energy flow.


STAND TALL: ALIGNMENT IS EVERYTHING
In yoga, one of the foundational building blocks is the mountain pose. It's where you stand tall with your arms resting at your side or in an anjali mudra, also known as prayer hands. In mountain pose, you make sure to align your head over your heart, and your heart over your pelvis. This ensures that you have the proper posture in your stance. You lift your heart toward the sky and lengthen your tailbone down to the earth. This naturally puts your core in an active state.

Alignment is everything, but so is balance. While you're standing in mountain pose, you press into all four corners of the feet, and when you lift your heart to the sky, you engage all four corners of the abdomen, finding balance in the upper and lower body as well as the left and the right. If you stand in this pose for any length of time, you start to feel your body firing up with energy, and if you do it often, your muscle memory will kick in and it will help you stand tall, even when you're off the mat. There's no better way to beat the slouch and get rid of the tummy pooch. Trust me.

STRETCH: YOU ARE ALLOWED TO TAKE UP SPACE
The world we live in today teaches us - especially women - that we need to be small, that we aren't allowed to take up space. Case in point, I was once in a full movie theater and during the movie, had my arm on the armrest of my chair. The gentleman next to me stretched his arm out and tried to put it where my own was. I apologized and moved my arm so that he could have the armrest. This made me wonder how many times I've apologized for taking up the space that I am allowed to be in. How many times have you done this?

One of the most important things I've learned from yoga is this. You are allowed to take up space. You are allowed to stretch well beyond your yoga mat and find stillness and peace of mind. You don't have to apologize for your presence. In fact, you should do the opposite and celebrate it. Rather than shrinking into the little boxes we allow for ourselves, why not expand those boxes and allow ourselves more space?



DON'T RUSH: SLOW, INTENTIONAL MOVEMENT IS BEST
Like all good things in life, yoga can't be rushed if you want to experience all the benefits of the practice. If you hurry through your yoga flow, you'll miss all the good, meaty heart work. We tend to rush when we have other things on our mind, when we are frustrated, or when we have other tasks awaiting our attention, but yoga requires that we let go of the distractions and just sit with ourselves for the duration of the routine.

Slow, intentional movement is always best. If we synch our breath with our movement, we will find stillness in body and mind. Sometimes, we need to hold a pose for several cycles of breath in order to break the habit of fidgeting on - and off - the mat. This spurs us to be intentional in our actions and focus on the task at hand. 

EMBRACE: DON'T LET FRUSTRATION GET THE BEST OF YOU
I once heard my favorite yoga instructor say that when frustrations come up while you're on the mat, that usually signals there are frustrations in other areas of your life. When you're doing a yoga routine and you come to a difficult pose - whether you don't have the flexibility or the strength to nail it, or maybe you can't keep your mind from wandering off to other things - it's easy to abandon it and skip through to the next pose.

Working through frustrations is probably one of the most difficult things I've had to learn. It requires that you lean in and breathe while enduring the uncomfortable sensations that arise when facing new challenges. This is true in yoga and more importantly, in life. The key is to not let frustration get the best of you. Don't give up. When you want to skip through to the next pose, push through it and you will succeed. After all, challenging yourself to new things and overcoming the fear and frustration is what allows you to grow.

What lessons have you learned from your yoga practice or other fitness routines?

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28 comments:

  1. shootingstarsmagJuly 5, 2018 at 7:35 AM

    I've only done yoga a couple times and my friend and I joked that it ends on such a positive, feel-good note, it's almost like they want to make sure your body forgets how tough it was throughout. I like your tips though, and I totally agree about the taking up space one! Women especially ARE told to make ourselves small and that's not okay!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I haven’t practiced yoga in over two years formally, but more and more signs have been heading my way to get back into it. I’m always mindful about starching and breathing after my workouts, but I haven’t done any sequence so or anything like that either. It’s amazig what taking time to breathe and focus on slow movements can do for you.

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  3. Lacy Blanchard NgoJuly 5, 2018 at 9:03 AM

    “Slow intentional movement” yes! I love this! Great post!

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  4. Shadlyn Jay (SJAY)July 5, 2018 at 10:40 AM

    I find yoga very relaxing and great way to clear your thoughts! It doesn't even feel like exercising cause you not focusing on nothing but tropical island you are in.

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  5. I only got into yoga about two years ago, and I only wish I'd started sooner! It's helped me a lot with achy joints and anxiety. I love that even when the world is fast-paced and focused on the hustle, yoga allows us to slow down and be intentional and graceful.

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  6. I've recently gotten back into yoga after taking a long break and I forgot how good it was for me. Especially focusing on the breathing helps in so many aspects of life.

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  7. Thank you for sharing this - yoga is something I really want to do more of and these tips are great. Breathing is so important and so is posture - thank you for the reminder.

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  8. Yoga. Such an easy intention to set for myself, but such a hard one to execute. I have fallen off a bit this year and have started to get back into it. 3 sessions in and I'm already feeling the benefits. Alignment really is everything and trying to take in the uncomfortable sensations both physical and emotional has been hard for me lately. Great encouragement, thank you!

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  9. These are all great tips. I know part of my issue with yoga sometimes is that I overthink it. I worry too much about if I'm doing the poses right and keeping up with the rest of the class, you are right that slow intentional movement is better! And not worrying what people think!

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  10. So many wonderful lessons in yoga. I've found that I'm more intentional on all other parts of life, the "poses" that we tend to skip through in life, work, and play. To be intentional and attentive to the moment of discomfort or just not being as good as we want to be helps us to see the incremental gains we make if we stick with it. Love this post!

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  11. Such a great post! I love yoga so much. It's so amazing for your mental and physical health.

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  12. I really need to get back to the mat. I’ve overcome some difficult crap and cries in the middle of yoga, but embraced it and dammit if that didn’t soothe my broken soul. I need to MAKE time for this again. Thank you for sharing. :)

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  13. Courtney HeathcockJuly 6, 2018 at 9:41 AM

    I have REEEEALLY been wanting to try out yoga. Reading what you have learned just made me want to try it even more. Especially that part about alignment...I have horrible posture and feel like I'm a little too far gone to fix it, but this inspired me to give it a shot and see.

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  14. Yoga is definitely a good workout, but it is not easy!

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  15. Yoga is such a great workout! I'm glad you enjoyed this post. :)

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  16. Yoga is great for joint pain and anxiety. I also have both and it's been better than any medicine. :)

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  17. I hope this inspires you to try more yoga this month! :)

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  18. You're so right! Thanks for coming by to read, Darin!

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  19. I am also an overthinker and I've had to work hard to practice letting go and give my mind a rest while I practice.

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  20. That's a great point! Thanks for coming by to read!

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  21. Yes, it's amazing how much better you feel after you embrace the hard stuff and work through it.

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  22. You should give it a try! If I can make a recommendation, Yoga with Adriene on YouTube is wonderful for beginners. She is my favorite instructor. :)

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  23. Thanks for the reminder (once again) that I need to go back to my yoga routine.

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